Hello All,

So its been a long time since I’ve posted on here. Due to life being very busy and work being more prominent – I have been focussing on things other than philosophy. I am expressing myself these days through the more accessible and ‘easier’ medium of instagramming and tumblring.

I have an upcoming book review on O’Connor’s Adorno title from the Routledge Philosophers series (headed by B. Leiter, which also contains the very excellent ‘Kant’ by Paul Guyer in the series).

I have also gone into a small foray of reviewing music – particularly albums of the ‘extreme metal’ genres. I feel that writing about music and reading about music has taken more of my attention intellectually lately. I would hope that I can have the attention and intelligence to write about Kant and the sciences someday in the future.

Regards to any of you still reading this blog. I’m not dead yet.

M

Team Predator (going to Reading Mall)

I may or may not have talked about this on the blog. One of the things I rarely do but always think about is airsoft. Airsoft is a game (some consider it a sport) which involves playing in various tactical situations and games akin to paintball, but with BB guns and often replica weapons. I am aware it’s not a thing for everyone especially as it’s very injury invoking (I have a permanent knee injury from airsoft) and it is intensely physical.

 

Among my group of friends we have got a unit. We call ourselves Team Predator. I have lately been organising an airsoft day – guised as a stag party at the Reading Mall this coming sunday. I am very much looking forward to playing on that site. Apparently it was once a shopping centre called ‘Friars Walk’ which closed down and is now used for airsoft and occasionally they have a George Romero style Zombie airsoft simulation game.

 

There are various elements that I love about airsoft. I love coming across all sorts of people. You get the teenaged kids with their dads, who basically used to be us 10 years ago. Then there are the airsofters who are a bit hardened, some are ex military, some are current military and others are extremely into it. I would say that Team Predator is somewhere between those two extremes.

 

I love the role play of airsoft. I get to use leadership and tactical skills that I don’t use in my ordinary life or (that much) at work. I love the opportunity to be seen in a different way, or not be seen at all wearing a mask. In the mask you are genderless yet distinct. I have kitted myself out for airsoft and my team are similarly excited about this.

 

Another aspect of airsoft that I often overlook is…the fear. The prospect of having a gun shot at you and grenades flown about is very scary. Injuries are very real in the game (I am a testament to that) and even though it is role playing and fantasy, the adrenaline and the perception of fear and acting under pressure is most definitely not.

 

I remember the last time I played airsoft that the fear was so intense that I didn’t push as hard as I used to when I played before. The sense of fear brings with it a real authenticity. The people who talk a lot about playing may not be the ones making the crucial plays and doing the crucial actions. The sense of fear and how to act in a fast paced situation is the real judge of a good airsofter and not the size of your gun or how expensive your equipment is.

Some thoughts on my music playlists

Lately I have not listened to as much underground black metal music as I would like to. This is for a variety of reasons (scarcity being the main one). I always make a point of keeping a diverse set of listening interests. Sometimes if I hear a conversation about a band going on and I don’t know much about it, I will make a note in Google Keep and check on them later. I also have a rolling task every month of making a ‘big fuckoff playlist’ which lasts anything from 8-12 days (as in up to 300 hours).

 

I like to organise my playlists in ways that try to acknowledge the greatest amount of unity through the greatest variety of depth. I’m sure Kant didn’t envisage the application of schematic concepts in this way. I listen to music with a variety of different personas and hats. With my spotify subscription I try to organise my music in as rational a way as possible.

 

I am interested in learning about early 20th century music from the perspective of being a fan of Modernist thought. My interest in modernism also informs my interest in black metal (but that’s another story). I am also interested in connecting to understand my old piano teacher’s Jazz heritage. I had initially been listening to the early jazz of Jelly Roll Morton and Benny Goodman, and then I evolved to exploring John Coltrane most recently.

 

I am also exploring composers that I haven’t known very much about and trying to get an informed opinion of. I listened to the works of Krenek, CPE Bach, Aaron Copland and I am currently exploring Jean Sibelius, Gerald Finzi and I have about 3 different Leonard Bernstein playlists. There seem to be three Leonard Bernsteins: the conductor who was well known for performing the greats and the classics of European artmusik; Bernstein the composer who wrote works that reflected this meshing of his distinctly American and urbanite sensibility with someone who is steeped in the history and heritage of the Europeans; and finally the ‘popular’ Berinstein who lives on as the dude who did West Side Story and those other Jazzy tunes. I think that through listening to all three of these Bernsteins concurrently I am having a better appreciation of his perspective and the interesting cultural soup that formed his outlook.

 

I was recently watching a MOOC on modern music which discussed the recent composer George Crumb (Whom I know nothing about). Crumb said in an interview how growing up in the USA with parents who were local band and orchestra musicians influenced him, as well as the multicultural agenda of the music department at his university. Music is alive insofar as it is both current and historical. I love listening to music through different personas, similar to how I have conceptualised Bernstein. I enjoy listening to music as someone who is a bad amateur musician. I enjoy listening to music as someone who is interested in its history and culture. Then there are the sensibilities of someone born in the 1980s and was a kid of the 90s and a 20-something through the 2000s trying to negotiate getting a bit older and uncool.

 

When I listen to all this music I explore things I like and things that I don’t like but still try to be informed about. I love the idea of trying to find some kind of unity in all the musical personas that I have, but on the other hand I think it is not possible or desirable. I want to have Shining’s Förtvivlan, min arvedel as something relatively recent that I absolutely adore and feel encapsulates me as a person, but at the same time I also feel the same kind of identification and emotion (albeit different emotional colours) about Beethoven’s Sonata no. 8, which I am currently working on and trying to deal with the tremolando of the left hand in the first movement (the word pathetique comes to mind!). Often people talk of historical periods and some have referred to the present as ‘postmodern’. Let’s say that I accept this label. Being a post-modern means that I can go to the gym listening to the music representing my outlook through Black Metal when I’m walking around with my headphones in; but also write blog posts at 3am while listening to Blaise Pascal on audiobook and listening to the music of Darius Milhaud (of les six) fame. Postmodern is one word to describe it perhaps, or perhaps muddled, confused. But not to say that these are necessarily bad things to mix it all up.

On Getting my Clarinet Back

Last week I got my clarinet back. I realised a couple of things, one was how much I missed an opportunity of playing more back in the day. Another thing was how shit I am at playing the clarinet!

 

I got my clarinet repaired from an eccentric jazzman named Willy. I loved his antiquated slang, he would say ‘bread’ for money and call people cats; refer to old instruments as ‘war horses’ and joked about clarinet repetoire. I miss being around musicians, I was telling Jazzman willy about when I held a tenor sax one time and worked out the embouchure and its pitch range instantly. To which big Willy replied: the Saxophone is ten times easier than the finesse of a Clarinet! I laughed inside.

 

Finesse is a trait I do not have unfortunately. I’m still learning how to do the embouchure and I am remembering my old teacher telling me constantly what my playing flaws are. Getting my clarinet back has reminded me of how much I love just doing anything musical. I used my improvisation knowledge developed from the piano to blow out a few improvised melodies and modes and licks, and it feels like playing the clarinet is like revisiting an old friend. You change over time after meeting them for a long time, but also, the absence between us has defined us in a big way.

 

I’m looking forward to playing my clarinet more. When I hold the clarinet and make a melody, I simply think differently. I love the difference compared to the piano. The piano has a largely constricting aspect to it. When I improvise with chords, I make a decision about what to play, but also, what not to play. With the Clarinet, there is more emphasis on clarity of expression and less about decisions by denial.

 

My piano teacher made his career as a jazz saxophonist and clarinettist, yet we rarely talked about it in our work together on the piano. I love how playing on another instrument gives one a different musical identity, there is a beauty about having many identities, although you can’t play them all at once unfortunately.

 Michael

‘Bob’ (Or, on the influence of my music teacher)

Over the past couple of weeks I have been preparing a performance. The performance was part of a soiree, for an audience in a very casual environment. The soiree had a setlist of pieces, but unbeknownst to the organiser, there was a second section of the night which consisted of a few surprise acts. My former music teacher, Rob Rathbone was directing the choir and the surprise was specifically for him. Bob (or as I still refer to him, sir) is retiring this year and a few of us from the past had reunited to come and perform to remind him of the various people who he has had a distinct and positive impact upon over the years.

 

It was odd coming together with familiar faces and unfamiliar faces all to celebrate the career of a very influential teacher. Throughout the night in the conversations I had with various people, I realised how deep Rathbone’s teachings, and even his personality had been a big impact on me. I loved the way how during the choral performance of the soiree, Robert gave descriptions and a bit of background about the historical context of the various choral pieces. Rathbone is a master of the preamble, the anecdote and a veritable raconteur. Later on in the evening, we had a brief chat in which we tried to out-raconteur each other. The conversation went as such:

 

RR: So, what was your recital piece again?

MP: I did Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s ‘Petit Suite de la Concert’ 

RR: Oh yes, I remember now. Coleridge-Taylor is a brilliant composer and it is a tragedy he isn’t played more

MP: Oh I totally agree, I cannot believe how influential he was on the idea of an autonomously African American culture in the early 20th century. It is a testament to his impact that he is held to this day in such high regard in the USA and during his own time. Coleridge-Taylor met Booker T. Washington, President Roosevelt and yet in England he is basically forgotten, it is a tragedy.

RR: I know!

MP: I have been writing a blog series about forgotten composers, and I am in awe of trying to remember the black composers of earlier periods, Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin, Coleridge-Taylor. I am even writing a piece on Hildegaard –

RR + MP (unison): — von Bingen, the first known composer of written music!

RR: I think it is an amazing testiment to her ability and prominence that a woman at that time could be such an accomplished figure, it is brilliant! 

Robert was the one who instilled a passion for music history within me. To have an opportunity to play for (and impress) my alumni peers and my former teacher was a great honour. It was a great honour to play the piece that for me defined my pianism of that time. It was a great honour to represent my cohort year group of the early 2000s to acknowledge his impact on us. It was a great honour to play again as a piano soloist, as although I practice a lot, ‘playing’ to an audience is a much different affair.

Maestro, and former pupil (FYI he did not teach me how to dress)

I tried to instill some humour into my performance. I tried to instill a bit of stage pompousness and character in the way that I used to. Robert really appreciated that, to be reminded of the old times of our era. I spoke to alumnus after my era at the college and it was a joy to hear from them of similar stories about certain teachers. It was assuring to know that there are still some universals out there in the world, like a certain mathematics teacher’s wrath.

There’s an old Jesuit saying: show me the child and I’ll mould the man (with various variants). Returning to the college is like returning to my spiritual home. I felt that there are few other places that remind me of what I have become was as a large result of what happened within the walls of that colelge, and a big part of who I am and who I became as a musician and a person interested in culture and philosophy in a large part came from the pastoral and musical teachings of Robert Rathbone. As I walked home from the pub I made one last pass through the school and I thought to myself: after all these memories of the past what do I do now? I thought I might just go on with the present and the future and try not to dwell too much. What I can say though is that much of what happened in my past set the agenda that I still follow today.

I’ll try to get those essays on Adorno completed soon!

Michael

Lately I have been… (June-July 2013)

Things have been busy. I really hate saying that, it sounds like a cliche. I have been too busy to physically and mentally do any blogging for Noumenal Realm, or do much philosophical work of my own lately. My next essay on Adorno’s Wagner is still being written and not yet ready for putting up. I might just say what’s keeping me busy lately.

Community Garden/Volunteering

Last month was the ‘Open Garden Squares’ weekend, in which Tooting Community Garden recieved 85 visitors during the sunday in which we were open to the public. One particular activity was a storytelling feature by the amazing Emily Duizend.

Later on in the month of June (or last weekend), Emily was part of a fundraising storytelling afternoon, also hosted at the garden. More details about that on the Transition Town Tooting blog. Along with Emily was her brother playing the Sitar (a wonderful and alluring instrument!), Christian at the guitar and another storyteller, Vanessa, told an amusing story in which a spray of water formed an interesting prop on a hot afternoon. Lots of garden type things taking my attention over the past few months. Over next month and possibly August, I will be taking part in some Challenge Network activities. Apparently, where ‘community leaders’ support youth volunteers with community projects. So apparently I’m a community leader? I feel more like Citizen Khan.

There’s lots more exciting things coming up at the garden in coming months as well.

Performing

I also found out last month, that my old music teacher, Robert Rathbone, also the music director of Sacred Heart church, Wimbledon, is retiring. A few of us have gotten together to host a shindig and I will be performing as a pianist (soloist), I am apparently second to last on the roster, and I will be performing alongside Rathbone’s old guard alumni from all the years he’s been teaching. I feel very proud both to have studied under Rathbone, whose musical education, instruction and his wise quips and ability to dig into extended digressions about music have been deeply influential to me. I wouldn’t be writing about Adorno if it wasn’t for that man. I have been preparing my piano solo over the past few days and I’ll be focussing a lot of my efforts into preparing my performance in under two weeks time. I will be performing (I think) Christian Sinding’s Rustle of Spring. I wish that two of my friends who are also Rathbone alumnus would be able to come and perform with me as an ensemble. However they are out of the country and I will have to be representing the 2004 crop of Rathbone’s musical soldiers on my own. A little bit daunting. Even though I performed last year to a crowd, it was not in a concert/staged environment. This will be the first time in a very long time since I’ve performed on my own. It is both excitng and worrying!

Philosophising

This week I finally went to visit the Philosophy club just establishing itself in Tooting. Dave Darby who has this website which is interesting on its own accord (funny enough I knew of the site before I actually met him or knew he made it), has hosted the very second philosophy club meeting based in London. I understand that Darby has run a similar group when in Buckinghamshire. The question was ‘what does it mean to be human?’ and it brought a lot of questions, perspectives and focii from all of the people taking part. Thanks to Dave and Amrit for hosting us all, and all of the participants for such interesting discussion. I find it interesting to talk about philosophical issues, as I rarely actually do it. I mostly have email correspondences with my other Noumenal Realm team (or more like Skype calls/messages). I am also  still reading Chris Bateman’s ‘Chaos Ethics’. I have been in some correspondence with Bateman about writing related feedback, although I am rearing up to write a critique of Bateman’s work when the book is finally published, which will be in the near future.

Other stuff

I’ve also been involved with just general life things. I am keeping an eye out for the London performance of a show later this month, where I have (under an alias) composed two songs. I have been jamming musically with my ensemble (two of which can’t join me for Rathbone’s retirement gathering). I’ve also started working at a new place, which is very exciting, but also requires adjustments. Lately I’ve been keeping a lot more active than I used to. I love keeping up with gardening activities, both as a social occurence and a community activity. I love keeping in touch with my musical side, which includes playing with my friends and the boring tedious pedagogical practice methods that I have developed. I’ve been hitting the gym pretty hard when I can as well. Last week I uttered the thought to myself: damn, only 8 hours of training this week? The week before I did 11, I’m competitive with myself when it comes to hitting it hard and working at something.

Getting busy living/dying

I’m turning 27 next week. I’m kind of dreading it. 27 is the year one loses any sense of youth culture credibility. I’ve been musing on the ’27 club’ idea lately as well. I wonder to myself if I died tomorrow, or next month, what would people say of my life? I would like people to consider me by my achievements, although unfortunately I suspect people will remember me as a person, which I would place less emphasis on personally. Newton after all was a great achiever, but an abhorrent personality. I guess one of the things I have been reflecting on lately about aging is not just the lost of hair, gaining of wrinkles and slower metabolic rate that slows down my gains while weight training, but also refleting on whether I have achieved enough in my life. I have spent the past few months (with composing, gardening, blogging, writing, socialising, playing musical instruments) with that thought in mind: if I die what will I have achieved. I kind of feel that lately I am living with that goal – trying to be immortalised in some way by some achievement. I do feel I have much to achieve. However, lately, writing more on my Wagner commentary is not one of the things.

Michael

Things I’ve been doing this month (May 2013)

I thought I’d write a non-blog post blog post. In other words, I know I should be writing about say, Wagner’s 200th Anniversary and have some Deep Thoughts about how the cultural reception of Wagner’s music reflects the state of human morality in a postwar peacetime era, or I could come with another exegesis essay on Adorno’s commentary on Wagner. But to be honest I’ve been occupied with other activities.

In real life I might be starting another job in the near future, and that’s taken a bit of thinking lately. My physical presence has been attending to a local volunteer and community project. I’ve been meaning to talk about this on the blog for a while. I’ve been involved with a local Community Garden project for a good part of one and a half years. For the past month and the next couple of weeks we are putting in a lot of thought and co-ordination towards the garden opening up to the general public as we are a participaing member of Open Garden Squares weekend and the Chelsea Fringe. I am personally very excited about getting involved in preparing for the garden opening up on this day. I will personally be there for most of the day, and I will be periodically playing the ocarina.

Perhaps another time I might write about how I’ve gotten involved with the community garden, or playing the ocarina!

Michael