Archives for November 2012

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Concerto for Orchestra, by Elliot Carter

November is almost over, and we would be remiss if we failed to note the passing of the composer Elliot Carter on the 5th.

Before he was a composer, he was an English Major at Harvard, and later in life set music to many poets, such as Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, and Wallace Stevens. Carter’s music sounds like a lot of other 20th century music (as Bach sounds like a lot of other early 18th century music), in that it is typically atonal and rhythmically complex.

The Concerto for Orchestra is considered by many to be his finest work; in the comments you’ll even see comments “this is indeed the greatest musical composition ever.” Ever! It is great, but it is also fairly tough going for the uninitiated—much, much more difficult than even Bartok’s great concerto, or Lutoslawski’s.

As Carter himself says about harmonic patterns in his work, “a chord, a vertical group of pitches either simultaneously sounded or arpeggiated, like a motif, is a combination to be more or less clearly remembered and related to previous and future chords heard in the same work. Whether the composer is conscious of it or not, a field of operation with its principles of motion and of interaction is stated or suggested at the beginning of any word. The field may be tonal, employ traditional harmony, or it may be unrelated to traditional harmony, as my music seems to be nowadays …”

There is also something about the rapidly changing rhythms that makes it sound chaotic and dramatic at the same time, and being difficult, it demands repeated listening many times over. But as it becomes more and more familiar, new discoveries are in store for the listener. The flip side of the demanding nature of the music is that it bears up to repeated listening very well.

It moves quickly, and if it sounds as if each of the instrumentalists is doing his own thing, that’s because they are. As Carter himself said, “I regard my scores as scenarios, auditory scenarios, for performers to act out with their instruments, dramatizing the players as individuals and participants in the ensemble.”

Elliott Carter, December 11, 1908 – November 5, 2012. Requiescat In Pace.


It’s nice to see that someone is succeeding at the sorts of things I’m failing at, namely, supernatural fetus fiction and fancy fanfic.  Even if n+1 is savaging it, there’s all that Granta/NewYorker stuff to ease the pain.

In other n+1 news, “America is a country of overgrown boys, stunted and warped, who, left to their own devices, are fit to do little more than play video games, stare at pornography, and crack jokes about genitals, flatulence, and defecation.”

Call for Papers – Second Biennial Walker Percy Conference at Loyola University New Orleans

When they write the history of Korrektiv Press, the Kollektiv’s involvement with the Walker Percy Center will surely occupy a pivotal position. From the never-written memoir of our visit to the opening of the Center, to our grand entrance upon the Percy landscape at the Center’s first conference, to what really ought to be the Kollektiv’s first-ever universal convocation, the fortunes of the one have been rather fancifully intertwined with those of the other. Gerasene ’13 in New Orleans. Rally, Kollektiv, rally!

Hipster Catholics, blogging at a time near the end of the world.

I don’t know who this Angelico character is, but has anyone noticed that his little intro line changes on a regular basis? Here’s his latest:

Fantastic. Surfing with Mel isn’t a commercial failure. It’s an underground smash.


The strangeness of the Dostoevskian universe, so well conveyed by Virginia Woolf (‘We open the door and find ourselves in a room full of Russian generals, the tutors of Russian generals, their stepdaughters and cousins and crowds of miscellaneous people who are all talking at the tops of their voices about their most private affairs’), which foreigners tend to ascribe to some peculiarities of the Russian national character, is just as strongly felt and often resented by Russians themselves.

Russian dictionaries list a common noun, derived from the writer’s name, dostoevshchina, which is a derogatory term describing an undesirable mode of behavior. A person guilty of dostoevshchina is being deliberately difficult, hysterical or perverse. Another possible meaning of the word is excessive and morbid preoccupation with one’s own psychological processes. The word is part of the normal Russian vocabulary, incidentally.

Simon Karlinsky, ‘Dostoevsky as Rorschach Test’, New York Times, 13 June 1971.  In Crime and Punishment (a Norton Critical Edition, Third Edition), edited by George Gibian, 615. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1989.


Reader Melissa Wiley (herself an author) sends word that pretty much every book Walker Percy ever wrote is available in ebook form for $2.02 each today over at Amazon. Thanks much, Melissa!

Today in Porcupine

Lickona missed this one as well, and Webb must be off smoking a cigar somewhere. So today the task falls to me:

A porcupine’s main defense against predators consists of keeping its backside to a predator. Get too close and you’ll snag 500 quills engineered to embed themselves deeper and deeper into flesh. A mouth full of these painful pins has caused many an animal to starve to death. In fact, the porcupine is so well-respected, it wanders the forest day or night without much hurry or fear. Few animals are clever enough to successfully hunt porcupines, though mountain lions, fishers, and Chevy Impalas have the most success. That mess of quills is equally effective against its own kind.

Whatever you do, do not follow the echidna link. And I don’t mean that in a ‘Ha! ha! Now that I’ve said something you won’t be able to resist following anyway!’ sort of way. This porcupine story contains enough sex and violence for the day.

Sebastian Ness

One man found a large lump of melted gold and the haste with which he shoved it under his coat and made off was astonishing. He was chased several blocks by the police, but was not captured.

Sebastian Ness was kicking through the
Still cooling ash at First and Main
When something solid led him to the
Enticing thought that not in vain
A gloved hand might venture, bending,
To touch some mystery, depending
On fortune’s smile to turn his fate
From lead to gold, to love from hate.
The lump he lifted flamed like foil
Beneath the blue, bird-speckled skies,
And Ness took flight with silent cries
That oozed out from his soul like oil.
His feet were fleet and did not pause
To ponder morals, rights, or laws.

The Afterlife of Moose

Exhaustion of names.

The Trainer

He sits in the corner, curled as a punch,
But placid all the same, accounting for
His pyrrhic losses, eating at his lunch
And sipping whisky with a petit four.

“The dainty roughs it out,” he says, “with sweet
And tough.” He crimps his toothless mouth. The gums
Are sucking glory while his withered feet
Begin to shuffle. “Seven rounds,” he hums.

“We thought all twelve; he went down in seven.”
He makes a fist – the knuckles gnarled and sprained –
And socks up an open purse for heaven.
Counting the seconds the way he was trained,

He rubs the rubber wheels that hold his chair
And pummels memory. The clock on the wall
Is full of feints and jabs. Perhaps aware,
He leans in – posterity takes a fall:

“He didn’t last,” he says. “I taught him all’s
He knew.” He dribbles whisky, glad to stew
About the past. His eyes are medicine balls.
“But didn’t teach him fuck all that I knew.”

The Korrektiv Almanac

Brian Jobe, author of Bird’s Nest in Your Hair, was born on this date in 1964. Jobe studied Classics at the University of Washington and at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His writing was published at National Review Online, Korrektiv, Letter X Magazine, and Dappled Things. He lived in Seattle most of his life, with brief sojourns in Japan, Boston, and/or Hell. Bird’s Nest in Your Hair was the first of seventeen novels he published before his life came to a dramatic end when he drove a fortunately empty articulated Metro bus off the Ship Canal Bridge. Jobe was ninety-nine years old at the time of his death and it is believed that the accident was precipitated by the receipt of a text message from Steven Spielberg offering to purchase the rights to adapt Bird’s Nest to the big screen. (Yes, they still had text messages and movies back in 2064 and Spielberg was still going strong due to the supplement situation he had set up for himself.)

Bird’s Nest in Your Hair by Brian Jobe: a novel about bartending, old-time religion, and the twilight years of commercial pornography. Plus, poetry!

Freedom and truth in language and metaphor …

Thanksgiving Special

Today only, download the Kindle edition of Surfing with Mel for a mere 99¢ and get a free turkey while supplies last.

Wait a minute … we’re out of turkeys. So … er … today only … well, not only today, but … yes, only … 99¢. Get yours today!

Image credit: Ryan Charles Trusell (yes, that Ryan Charles Trusell) by way of Seinfeld.

P.S. We love ya, Mel!

Love is for a lifetime…

…but diamonds are forever.

Furth Steps Forth

… when firemen pried up planks from the sidewalk near the north end of the block, intense heat drove them back. The basements of buildings were roaring furnaces …

Jacob Furth, dressed in tails and top hat,
was hastening across Western Avenue
when he saw smoke rising around a slat
near the curb. He hailed a fire crew
busy hauling hoses toward the dock
at Pier Two, then knelt on the boardwalk
to get a closer look. Felt the plank
for heat. As the firemen began to yank
loose the boards, Furth stepped back
to survey the entire block. Up the street
there was a shout, then a blast of heat
as the firemen fell back, their faces black
with smoke. Furth stepped forth … nervous …
the basement itself was a roaring furnace.

The Subtle Korrektiv

The painter Bryullov once made a correction [sic] on a student’s sketch. The pupil, looking at the transformed sketch, said: ‘You hardly at all touched my study, yet it has become entirely different.’ Bryullov answered: ‘Hardly-at-all is where art begins.’

Tolstoy, Leo. ‘How Minute Changes of Consciousness Caused Raskolnikov to Commit Murder’. Excerpt from ‘Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?’. Translated by George Gibian. In Crime and Punishment (a Norton Critical Edition, Third Edition), edited by George Gibian, 487. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1989. Originally published as introductory essay to a book on drunkenness by P.S. Alexeev (1890).

Memento Mori