Ben Watson applauds Edgard Varèse

Ben Watson is pretty much on the money here when he writes (in an antidote to most of the half-digested theory and rad-posturing drivel written about war and music of late):

Edgard Varèse brought the noise of sirens and bombs into music in the 1920s, a response to the terrors of World War I. His Hyperprism predicted the Nazi strategy of the Blitz, when civilian populations first became long-distant targets of military hardware. Unlike his ‘objectivist’ follower Iannis Xenakis, Varèse bent the shapes he heard into organic ovaloids which speak for the suffering ear. This is why, of all the pre-war orchestral composers, only Varèse has a non-salon, yet humanist ruggedness: a realism that moves the blood and shakes the entrails. Sonically, Varèse can stand comparison to Coltrane and Hendrix, who provided lasting testimonials to a different noise: a struggle against racial oppression in America and genocidal war in Vietnam.

Read the entire piece again here or here [ie. read it twice more!]


One thought on “Ben Watson applauds Edgard Varèse

  1. Its also worth reposting this corrective re Teddy:

    ‘A widespread campaign to cauterise Adorno’s thought entails university teachers handing out to their classes a photocopy of the chapter on the mass culture industry from Dialectic Of Enlightenment, followed by a discussion which ends up emphasizing the positive role television and magazines can play in entertaining the young and in improving race relations. The gap between students’ experience and Adorno’s accusations are so wide that he is easily cast as a blinkered reactionary. Teachers ally themselves with existing society, damning reflection and critique as an elitist pursuit, unprofitable and unproductive. However, even sociologists cannot take this argument too far, since it would obviate the need for academic analysis: the much-battered corpse of Adorno is forever being resurrected for another sparring match.

    In this game, Adorno has become a cipher for marxist thought in general. Middleclass commonsense cannot imagine criticism of class society in its totality, and so interprets any charge against commodification and commercial manipulation as mere snobbery.’


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