Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick hit: sonic subversion

When working at the "Satellite Office" (in order to lower the incidence of folks just "dropping in" at my main office), I will typically stick in the Apple earbuds so as to drown the astonishing vapidity of the sub-Valley-accented sorority conversations in the coffee shop--if I let myself actually hear them, the nauseating pointlessness of most of the values they express would make me want to kill myself.

This morning, thundering out of the earbuds are Jessye Norman's magnificent, howling excerpts from Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, an ode to the nightmarish, decadent Symbolist poetry of Albert Giraud, and to the "end-times" experience of pre-WWI Berlin. The atonal musical language is well-suited to the darkness of the poetry and of Schoenberg's vision in this period, but, as one of Dharmonia's students commented in a blog-post years ago "I have to stop listening now, because this music is scaring me and my dog." Listening this morning because I usually need to frame the music for the sophomore class (show them Munch's The Scream, which many of them have seen in one or another context or Volkswagen commercial, talk about Expressionism as "late Romanticism", about the necessity of finding a visual and/or sonic language suitable to express that nightmarish vision), I am overtaken with the nearly-irresistible urge to yank out the headphone jack, crank up the laptop speakers, and chase those vapid bimbos right out of the room.

Bookstore staff would probably intervene, but damn would it be worth it.


Texas Tech Theory Department said...

We listened to Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima today in harmony. Probably would have suited your purpose well, too. Poor sophomores got their ears full of painful music today!

CJS said...

And the funny thing is that at least *three* of them mentioned that, and said "I don't know if I can take any more." I had to give them chocolate to console them!